South African Indian Muslims need to look in the mirror


South African Indian Muslims have been routinely called out for acts and statements of racism. And debates are raging about whether the community has a problem. Fatima Moosa says the debate should be put to rest.

We are told that it is not good to generalise but I think it’s pretty fair to say the community is racist AF.

The roots of the racism that pervades the Indian community (Muslim or not) in South Africa might find its source in the caste system originating from India. Maybe it has its roots in apartheid and its method of separation and self-hate.

Who knows?

Understanding where the prejudice comes from is one problem. An even bigger issue is acknowledging that it exists.

As the myth of the rainbow nation crumbles, we appear ever so blind to our deep, deep racism. The community may have suffered under apartheid but we did manage to escape some of the harshest punishments of the racist regime reserved for Black Africans.

And today, some of us seem to be failing to interrogate the inequalities and injustices and the structural legacy of that oppressive system. It is this lack of reflexivity, and refusal to recognise this privilege that is most concerning.

Whenever anyone from the community is accused of racism be it blatant or not, the religious scriptures come out in full force as proof that racism does not exist among Muslims.

For example, this saying of the Prophet: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

We all know (or should know) what Islam says about equality (that all people are equal before God) but does that mean everyone practises as they are taught?

It’s really no use preaching that there is no racism in Islam when you treat the waiter at the restaurant or the cashier at the supermarket like crap, or when you use words like “animal” and “uncivilized” and or when you resort to using the k-word in your so-called safe space.

Worse still, South African Indian Muslims seem obsessed with the culture of victimhood.Â

Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world are certainly living in the shadow of Islamophobia, where their lives are on hold because of bigoted governments or fascists individuals.

But we in South Africa have it pretty good when it comes to being able to practise the faith.

Not to say that there isn’t some prejudice, or bigotry, but this certainly ain’t Trump Land.

So, long story short: When you get accused of racism, take a step back and ask why.

Don’t make the discussion about you, or your feelings, or your good intentions. This is precisely what white people facing accusations of racism do. It is the definition of privilege to assume that everyone has to care about your feelings.

Ask yourself: have I exercised prejudice on another person or community?

And it’s certainly not okay if you have. But it is much better to stop pretending to be innocent or blind to your words or actions. If you can recognise it, you can put a stop to it.

Don’t go on the defensive and immediately get angry.

And please don’t tell the person calling you out to stop playing the race card. It is what Muslims are told in places where they are often unwelcome.

As a Muslim we should be fighting injustice and if you’re the one causing the injustice, then fight yourself.

We can and should be doing better.


  1. Black people are also racist, as are coloured people and Chinese people. The point is some individuals are racists and some are not. Your inability to generalise and stereotype knows no bounds, you will even villanize yourself. As a white person and member of the minorities, I know how it is to be treated this way and I will stand by my Indian brothers and sisters even though they did not stand with me. Oh, and btw most Indians are actually not Muslim. Why forget about our Hindu countrymen>

  2. I love how you say Muslims Indians.
    Well honestly son recent events every skin tone has been accused of racism.
    The media needs to stop also accusing apartheid because most of us have no idea what it is. We all know stories from grand parents and parents that is it.

    I am so sick of news channels tryin to play the race card for views.

    Has the media forgotten happiness exsisit?

    Have you looked at the remarks made by every other skin tone.
    Farm murder= hate due to the way media is reporting it.
    Juju often being taken out to of context due to views for media.

    Stop ruining ubantu for the rest of us.

  3. comrades when it comes to racism there are limits to be tolerated in speech but most important to address are racist actions which hinder good acts or injure innocent. As for Asian Indians South Africa is not India thus they are expected to conform to acceptable norms of South Africa however, if they choose not to conform to norms of South Africa I deeply believe India will make room for them. They as well as all others from foreign or/plus colonialists origin should know we are not going to allow them to carve out a lasting racist zone. In fact racist communities of South Africa are now under lasting scrutiny plus timely good actions to wipe out their Apartheid environment. Please do not test us? It is not something we take lightly thus, ill feelings could linger for years with all being losers but those from foreign origins being ultimate losers. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan Gue.

  4. Oh nice, more Indian and Muslim journalists indulging in self-flagellation. More odes to Indian racism as though its population of 1% has any actual decision-making power in this country (let’s ignore the Gupta’s for now). Fatima is an intern so I’m betting she’s quite young and was born way after apartheid ended and has no experience of what it meant to be Indian in Apartheid South Africa. Yes Indians were given more rights and privileges than blacks, but so were the Chinese more so than Indians and then came the Coloureds. This hierarchy even extended to Robben Island where prisoners were treated differently according to their skin colour. The purpose was to divide and conquer non-whites which is continuing quite beautifully with black Nationalists threatening Indians and Whites with physical violence. Here’s a newsflash: racism exists amongst all races and religious groups. Yes some Indians are racist and some are really not but their attitudes are the same as that of every other race in this country. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “coolie” being bandied about casually by my fellow White, Coloured and Black South Africans. So treating Indian Muslims as though they are some especially racist vessel is not going to address the real problem which is that the so-called Rainbow Nation is crumbling from a wave of populist black nationalist thinking which seeks a future of this country minus Whites and Indians.

  5. No doubt we need to look into ourselves and try to fix the fault, but there are so much more serious issued that need to be addressed. Nevertheless, Islam clearly rebukes racism in countless accounts. So many of the Sahabah were honoured and given such high positions. So the question stands, why don’t we practise? The same can be said for many things: why doesn’t one pray Salah? Why doesn’t one abstain from such and such sin? No obviously, one wrong doesn’t make another right, but the evident point is we do not practise a lot of what we’re supposed to, unfortunately. We need to self-reflect and try to fix ourselves in every regard. We pray that Allah grants us the ability to do so.

  6. Your generalisation is a contradiction by itself. Victimhood is a trait of many, not specific to any race. Unfortunately racism is deep-rooted and naturally not a choice, but our actions are, and we need to look into ourselves and say and do that which we know is correct.


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